The start of the Christmas season in the Kappus household is usually signified by a viewing of “A Muppet Christmas Carol,” a fanciful retelling of the Dickens classic starring Michael Caine as Scrooge (played straight out of Dickens’ text), Kermit the Frog as Bob Crachit, and the rest of the Muppet crew filling in most of the roles. It is funny and heartwarming and gets the message of love and compassion across to all ages.
It is such a significant part of our family heritage that I may have heard my son say to our grandkids: “Kids, you are biologically required to like this movie.” There is plenty of Muppet shenanigans and some very upbeat and memorable music. I wanted to share a few thoughts that struck me this time around from the songs, written by the incomparable Paul Williams.
The opening number is called “Scrooge” and is sung by the whole town as he makes his way to his office. The final verse states:
There goes Mr. Heartless, there goes Mr. Cruel
He never gives, he only takes, he lets his hunger rule
If being mean's a way of life you practice and rehearse
Then all that work is payin' off cause Scrooge is getting worse
Every day, in every way, Scrooge is getting worse!
We say that to our kids all the time, right? “Practice makes perfect.” Be mindful of what you are practicing. Is it kindness? Is it compassion? Maybe even more significant in our day…is it empathy? Can you imagine what someone else’s journey or plight might be like?
The song “It Feels Like Christmas” has much to say and reminds us, among other things, that “when you do your best for love, it feels like Christmas.” A particularly poetic line describes it as “the summer of the soul in December.”
It is the season of the heart
A special time of caring
The ways of love made clear
It is the season of the spirit
The message, if we hear it
Is make it last all year
The closing line: “It’s true, wherever you find love, it feels like Christmas.”
It makes sense because the hallmark of the Christmas season, indeed, the distinguishing mark of the Christian life is love. How do you make clear the ways of love?
Finally, as the cycle of ghostly adventures winds up, we find a Scrooge born anew. The song “Thankful Heart” closes the show. Having stalked with cold disregard through the town at the opening of the show, Scrooge now goes out on Christmas morning to sing (yes, Michael Caine sings) his newfound wonder.
With a thankful heart, with an endless joy
With a growing family every girl and boy
Will be nephew and niece to me
Will bring love, hope and peace to me
Yes, and every night will end and every day will start
With a grateful prayer and a thankful heart.
Scrooge opens up his heart and life to everyone in his community, recognizing that they all have something to bring that could make his life more meaningful.
He closes the song, and the movie, with:
With a thankful heart that is wide awake
I do make this promise, every breath I take
Will be used now to sing your praise
And beg you to share my days
With a loving guarantee that even if we part
I will hold you close in a thankful heart.
Let’s commit ourselves to singing the praises of our neighbors and fellow humans. Or, as Luther puts it in his explanation of the 8th Commandment: “We are to fear and love God, so that we do not tell lies about our neighbors, betray or slander them, or destroy their reputations. Instead we are to come to their defense, speak well of them, and interpret everything they do in the best possible light.”
Go ahead. Ask yourself the question that is begging for an answer: “Who is my neighbor?”
Happy New Year and God’s blessing as you continue to walk the path of Jesus.